My friend recently introduced me to home-made toothpaste. Quite a few websites offer recipes, for example: 1, 2, 3.

One such recipe is:

  • bicarbonate of soda
  • charcoal
  • coconut oil
  • optional essential oils and other additives for taste/smell

I'm wondering how a) safe and b) effective this is compared to commercial toothpaste.

Googling this topic, most commentary focuses on flouride and various additives. Edmond Hewlett from the American Dental Association claims "fluoride protects teeth by filling in tiny gaps in the enamel surrounding each tooth" although the consensus seems to be that flouride is not at all essential, nor are the various commercial additives.

Bicarbonate of soda is alkaline, so I can see how neutralizing mouth acids would be beneficial, but in principle too much alkaline is as bad as too much acid, right? So could too much bicarb in the recipe be damaging?

I've read claims that bicarb and charcoal are less abrasive than some commercial ingredients, but I haven't got solid sources for such claims. I also don't know whether any of the other commercial ingredients have definite benefits, or whether particular types of charcoal are best.

How do I know if the above recipe, or some similar DIY toothpaste recipe is

a) safe, and

b) effective?

And how safe and effective is it compared to commercial toothpaste?

  • 5
    Hi spraff, this is not really how skeptics.SE works. Questions are on topic if they challenge a notable claim (i.e. a reputable source has made the claim, or there is evidence that a relevant number of people believes the claim). Your post basically asks whether you can believe your friend who claims that their homemade toothpaste is safe and effective. But your friend is probably not a reputable source. What you could do is to show that this recipe is used by a considerable number of people, e.g. by showing that it has been published in a book or on a website with some reach. – Schmuddi Aug 12 '19 at 10:54
  • @Schmuddi I reframed the question and added some sources. Good enough? – spraff Aug 12 '19 at 16:45
  • One of the link you post mention adding xylitol to the recipe. That gave me a good laugh. All sugar replacements ending in -ol are known for their effect on digestion. I'll let you Google which effect. Gladly, the amount should be small :-) – Jeffrey Aug 12 '19 at 20:48
  • 2
    @Jeffrey I can't see that even being remotely an issue in this case. It seems like the dosage required for it to take affect is quite a bit more than even the amount of toothpaste someone would regularly use in a brushing. Let alone the fact that only a small fraction of that toothpaste is xylitol, and that typically you spit out toothpaste, so you wouldn't be digesting much xylitol. – JMac Aug 13 '19 at 16:11

Commercial toothpastes contain fluoride. Home-made ones don't.

Fluoride effect on cavity reduction is well-established. For example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16208382/

As such, your home-made recipe will either be

-less effective (lacking fluorides)

-dangerous (if you were silly enough to mix fluorides at home)

Going under the assumption you brush your teeth to prevent cavities.

  • 1
    Note that the active ingredient in toothpastes is usually some amine fluoride (e.g. Olaflur, C27H60F2N2O3), which is a quite stable compound that can be handled safely with basic laboratory discipline (a.k.a. gloves and an eye on dosage in the end product). We are not talking monoatomic fluoride here (which would indeed be dangerous to handle at home). – DevSolar Aug 13 '19 at 7:24

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